How-to Start seeds in-doors, Homemade Liquid Fertilizer Recipe

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The longing of my soul for warmth and sunshine is becoming deeper everyday… especially now that the calendar says it’s truly spring. I, as I’m sure so many others, are anxious for warmer days. This winter was a trial for many of us die-hard gardeners… even for winter lovers.

I long to place my hands into the warm soil… sense the life force that dwells within the seeds… watching life spring forth out of nothingness… yes we are gardeners.

Many of you who are my friends on For Dragonflies And Me Facebook page have witnessed many changes take place in my life over the last several months. I’ve sadly left my beloved farm in the thumb of Michigan for a newer, brighter location that I now call home. I am blessed to be living at a wonderful greenhouse/nursery that I am in my literal heaven on earth. I would like to thank all of my followers for their patience as I needed a hiatus from the love of my life… my writing… But now things are in order and I feel that I can put my whole heart back into my passions…

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We are like plants… we are conceived… we are born… we live… we struggle… then all too soon we will die. But… in the midst of all this we find joy in life and living it to the fullest…

It is spring… and I am ready to live my life to the fullest… I hope all of you will continue to join me here as I share my love with all of you…

It’s time to start thinking about starting seeds and planning our gardens. Starting Seeds in doors is very easy and extremely rewarding! All you need is a few everyday household items~

*If you buy organic baby lettuce, greens or spinach than you will have access to those handy clear plastic containers with lids. These are perfect for seed starting. Be sure to poke several drainage holes on the bottom of the container.

*Fill your container about 2/3 way full with a good organic potting mix. Plant your seeds as package describes. Be sure to follow planting dates on packet. Water accordingly.

*Put the lid on, which will give a greenhouse effect. You will not have to water due to the condensation that will be created.

*Put in a sunny window and wait until seeds start to sprout see seed packet instructions.

*Once the seeds start to germinate, remove lid and water according to packet instructions. Another easy but more extravagant way is to set your flats on a table and hang lights on ‘s’ hooks with light chains from the ceiling in a warm basement or other room. The lights must be no more than 3 to 6 inches from the top of the flat (or the plants once they start growing), so be sure to make your light set up adjustable. Plain old fluorescent shop lights work best for starting seeds, or you can even purchase ‘grow lights’ from greenhouse supply companies or seed catalogs.

*You can go to any big box retailer and purchase really slick ‘seed starting’ kits. Follow instructions on kit…. and enjoy! Transplant outdoors following packet instructions.

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Here’s an easy and inexpensive recipe for liquid fertilizer. You can use this for both house plants as well as your outdoor potted plants. I’ve shared this recipe before, but it’s worth a repeat.

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Easy Liquid fertilizer~ to give your house plants and potted outdoor plants an extra boost, add 1 teaspoon of Epsom salt and 1 teaspoon of fish emulsion plant fertilizer to 1/2 gallon of water, then stand back and watch’er grow! Extra fertilizer water can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 months.

Please feel free to share this information with your friends… and I hope you’ve found it helpful.  Please be sure to follow me on Facebook for daily posts!

Happy Day,
Jean

 

 

 

 

Heirloom Seeds: Why they’re better and my favorites varieties

Hello all…

Check out my new post over at Farm to Table, Field to Plate!

http://outdoorsexperiencejournal.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/heirloom-seeds-why-theyre-better-and-my-favorites-varieties/

 

 

The Promise of Spring: 5 garden planning tips

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“It’s raining but the tulips are still managing to poke their green shoots out of the mud, a promise that spring is coming, and so is the sun. I suppose I owe it to them to at least keep my head up until then.”
Quote adapted from one by Writers Block

Only 57 days till my beloved spring. The new life I long for along with all her secret promises will soon come up out of the ground. The snow drops and crocus’ and then the daffodils and tulips rising up to greet me each day. Sending me silent messages of love to encourage me on through the last of winters dead days.

New life… but presently life is dormant. Still and cold.

Winter is filled with dreams and anticipations of planning new garden projects.
Spring is one of new beginnings… fresh hopes… dreams of what will be…

The dream I’m ever longing after is feeling the dirt once again along with the warmth of the sun.Close up of my garden plan I drew out.

I thought with all this dreaming we’d look at something all of us die-hard gardeners are doing… planning our gardens.

Here are 5 garden planning tips to get you started in the right direction.

1. Gather all your seed catalogs, sticky notes, a pen and high-lighter along with a note pad.  Once you’ve decided on the amount of space you have in your garden you’ll know what you need and the quantities.

2. Decide on the varieties that you want to grow.  The best way to do this is to plot out some time when you can sit and peruse your catalogs. Read variety descriptions carefully to determine light, soil, moisture and spacing requirements.

3. Draw your garden design out. I always draw out my gardens so I have a visual to see. You don’t have to get as detailed as mine… I just enjoy the whole planning aspect.  You can use graph paper or a piece of notebook paper. Be sure to think on your space and it’s limitations.

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4.  Determine available space.  When planning your garden you need to keep in mind space limitations and each plants growing habits. For example, a tomato plant should have three square feet for proper growth and maturation.  Think about your isle ways when planning this. If your isles are two feet wide, then plan your tomato row with three feet and then two on both sides. You’ll need a total of 7 feet minimum for a row of tomatoes.  Look at the plant descriptions in the catalogs.DPP_0011

5. Soil testing. I advise, especially for first time gardeners to test your soil. You can buy a simple soil test at most garden centers or take your sample into an agency that offers this service. You will have better success if you know what your soil may be lacking. It could be something as simple as calcium/lime or copper.

Although there are many other aspects to getting your garden plan done, these are the basics to get you on your way!

Enjoy friends,
Jean

Garden Themes!

 

My breakfast patio is one of my quiet spaces...

My breakfast patio is one of my quiet spaces…

Have you been dreaming of a new garden but just can’t figure out what you want to do? Well… check out my new post at Your Home with Karie Engels for 4 awesome ideas!

Click the link to take you right on over!

http://yourhomewithkarieengels.com/2013/11/21/garden-themes

Happy Day,
Jean

The Season of Autumn

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“I must have flowers, always, and always.” -Claude Monet

The Season of Autumn truly does hold much beauty and awe…
The leaves as they change from brilliant green to all the shades of the beautiful sunset…
Waking to an early frost as it glistens… the sun touches it and the frost becomes a deadly killer.
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The sounds of the geese flying overhead with their graceful bodies against the fall sky …
There is something magnificent about a fall sky…
You know what I mean… the clouds put on a performance that leaves one standing, staring in awe… simple elegance.
Massive waves of swirling color, not grey yet not white, billowing over head so low it seems you’d only have to reach up to touch them…
The night sky as the sun sets… its rays reaching down into the depths of your soul… waves of fire.

DPP_0001Autumn is when I get to start my cook stove again… oh the aroma of burning wood leaves a feeling so comforting. Like being wrapped in an old quilt…  I love my cook stove.  The memories of days gone by as a child, spending time at my dad’s folks in Northern Canada. There was no electricity or indoor plumbing until my young teen years.

I can still close my eyes and imagine the aromas that rose upstairs as grandma was frying  fresh eggs just laid that morning and bacon for breakfast… covered and cozy under her quilts… not really wanting to venture out into the cold… the heat would start to move slowly through the old farm-house upstairs and then I’d jump out of bed and quick get dressed and run downstairs. Everyone else was already up and moving long before I. It was a happy feeling… a cozy, homey feeling that I had there.

Now I have a cook stove of my own and although I only use it in the cold months, I can’t imagine winter without it.

But my heart and my soul belong to the sun and warmth… I live to be in my gardens… to touch the dirt… to breathe deep into my soul the life my gardens gives me.

I am of the same mind as Claude Monet… “I must have flowers, always, and always”…

So today I’ve decided to share, in between my new organization series, an Essay Of My Flowers.

My heart and my soul are happiest in the garden.. my garden of flowers.

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Please note that these photographs are owned by me… If you’d like to use them in something, I don’t mind so long as you give me proper credit and direct them here to my site. Thanks…

Happy Day,
Jean

Kitchen Gardens: How-to tips and ideas on how to create your own

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NEW POST!
Follow this link to read my NEW article on kitchen gardens at Farm to Table, Field to Plate.

Happy Day,
Jean

http://outdoorsexperiencejournal.wordpress.com/2013/10/17/kitchen-gardens-tips-and-ideas-on-how-to-create-your-own/

Saving Heirloom Seeds: Quick and easy how-to without the fermentation process

We’ve had three light frosts here in the Thumb of Michigan already. I’m not ready to loose my garden… not yet… I’m just not ready. I still need to feel the life that it provides me with.  I still need to touch it’s bounty…

I just started harvesting the Roma beans.

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The lettuces are quite big enough to be transplanted into the hoop house.

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The two fall zucchini plants are just making their babies.  I just don’t want to see my gardens die yet…

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But my gardens are getting tired and beginning to show the signs of all its hard work.

Fall has moved in even though I’m not done with summer. But it’s here and there’s work to be done in preparation for the all to soon coming wicked days of winter.

Along with all the food preservation that I do each year, I also preserve something else… my seeds for next years garden and bounty.

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So why save your own seeds? Just buy them right? Well… that’s an option and if you purchase seeds from local, small family owned businesses you’re keeping your dollars within your community or at least your state.

But for me, I’m interested in being self-sufficient and not relying on seed companies, local or not to feed me and my family. It’s very important for me to know what I’m getting and where it’s been.

Saving my seeds also saves me money and depending on the size of ones garden, this can be a substantial amount.

Today lets look at a quick and easy how-to on saving Heirloom seeds without the fermentation process.

*The reason that some people teach and stress the fermentation process is because some believe there’s a better chance of killing any and all bacteria’s that may be in the produce.

NOTE: I’ve been using the following method that I’m about to show you for over 10 years and I have never once had problems with disease or poor germination.

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Step 1: It’s very important to find as perfectly shaped specimens as possible, harvested when fully ripe off a disease free plant to ensure successful seed saving.

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Step 2:  Using the small end of a melon baller, carefully scoop out the seeds. You’ll get some pulp but that’s fine for now.

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Step 3: Using your fingertips, separate the seeds from the pulp as best you can. You won’t be able to get it all.

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Step 4: Put the semi-cleaned seeds in a colander and wash with cold water. Gently press the remaining pulp through the holes being careful not to damage the seeds.

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Step 5: Place a paper towel folded in half and then half again so it’s 4x thickness on a paper plate and put the washed seeds on it. Be sure they’re in a single layer and not mounded one on top of another.  Be sure to label your paper towel by writing directly on it or using a sticker as I’ve done here.  Allow the seeds to dry on your counter for 2-3 weeks being sure to keep them out of direct sunlight. Once you’re sure they’re dry, fold the paper towel in half and store in a labeled zip-lock baggie and keep in your freezer till next spring.

This method of seed saving can be done with all seeds that come from ‘juicy’ fruit or vegetables. Here are a few other photo’s of my saved seeds.

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This red tomato is my Russian Big Roma and I’ve been saving the seeds for well over ten years. This is one of my favorite tomatoes. Because I’ve carefully selected only perfectly shaped and the largest tomatoes each year, the plants from these seeds will produce plants that are stronger, more disease resistant with larger fruits/veggie.

Saving your own seeds will be one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do for your family.  Knowing that the produce you eat, grow, harvest, preserve and eat again each year has been possible because of your efforts…. this will give you a sense of true accomplishment.

Happy Day,
Jean

Planting Garlic: Now’s the time to get your garlic planted for next years harvest

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Garlic is gold. This gold takes patience for sure.

The clove is tenderly placed in the cool earth and then carefully buried into a wintery grave.
The ground freezes with this little life waiting… sleeping…
Snow falls. Insulates. Freeze.

Soon will come the spring… my time of joy will come again. When I can step outside, closing my eyes to inhale the good clean smell of mud… grass… wind through the trees… earth smell. All you gardeners reading this are holding your breath… imagining and understanding fully what I’m saying… goose bumps…

You know because you love the same things I love.

Dirt.
Air.
Seeds.
New life.

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So now that I’ve got you all excited to garden again… here’s the easy as one, two, three planting guide!

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1. Using your nicest, largest bulbs, divide them into separate cloves.

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2. Making a hole in your garden spot, about 4″ deep, take one clove.

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3. Placing the flat, root side down place one clove into the hole; cover with dirt and tamp lightly; I cover with mulch, which happens to be grass clippings here.

4. Repeat this process, planting your cloves about 4 to 6 inches apart.  I recommend you place a stake in the ground marking it as ‘Garlic and your date’ so you know where you planted. I would also jot it down in your garden journal, calendar or wherever you keep that kind of information. If you don’t keep that kind of information, I highly recommend you start!

…now walk away and dream of spring, because this is where the patience starts.

So, once spring arrives you’ll see green shoots like this…DPP_0032…the shoots that look like onions all around the perimeter of the raised bed, those are your garlic! These are about a week old. They will look like a little ‘v’ coming out of the ground, just like an onion, but the leaf will be pointy and flat, not round.

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(Photo credit to Reflections from the Artist’s Garden. To see more go to their Facebook page at this link
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Reflections-from-the-Artists-Garden/320228484713794?fref=pb

In July you’ll notice a round stem with a pointy, lighter green tail looking thing- (see above photo) growing up from the center of the flat leaves. It will grow and once it’s about a foot tall, it will start to curl and the head will begin to swell. This is what we refer to as the ‘garlic scape’. At this point snap or cut this off at the base where the scape is growing out of.  It is wonderfully edible, so be sure to use it. You can snip it up and use it in anything you’d normally use garlic for. It is a bit more mild in flavor….

…If you don’t it will turn into a seed pod, that looks like this… this is the garlic ‘seed head’.

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If you leave it go ‘to seed’ you will NOT get a large bulb… you’ll end up with a walnut size bulb that doesn’t amount to anything.
***You can leave a few of them to do this if you’d like to grow ‘green garlic’ which is similar to a scallion (green onion). Simply plant these into the ground all season long and you’ll have fresh green garlic.

But… most of us want nice, big bulbs for our cooking and to save more seeds. So be sure to snap off the garlic scape.  Around the end of July to the middle of August, you’re garlic will be ready to harvest. You will know by the leaves. Once the bottom six to eight leaves are browned, the bulb is finished growing. If left in the ground it will ‘split’ and not be fit to store.

When you harvest your garlic be sure to carefully pull straight up, loosening the ground around slightly. You don’t want the neck to snap and have to dig for it. It will be slightly difficult to yank out because the roots are very secure.

After you’ve harvested all your garlic, cut the stems off leaving about 3 to 4 inches of the neck (like the one in the first photo of me holding a bulb). You can put all your garlic in a mesh onion bag or crate with holes for proper air circulation. You will need to let your garlic ‘cure’ so it will store properly.

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In about four to six weeks your garlic will be properly cured. Sort through them keeping the largest and best shaped bulbs for your seed. I know you’ll be tempted to want to keep the big ones and plant the little ones… but with garlic, you get what you plant. In a few years of planting all nice big cloves, you’ll successfully get all large bulbs.

I recommend that you print this article off and tape it to your calendar for next spring as a reminder… but if you don’t, no worries, I’ll re-blog it for you in July!

Keep posted for this yummy recipe in my next post! Garlic-Thyme Infused Olive Oil…

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Happy Day,
Jean

Winterizing, dividing and mulching your gardens

August is the time of year when I neglect my flower gardens most. With all the hustle and bustle of preserving the bounty, my days are filled with the harvest and ‘putting up’. I love it all though… this garden bounty between the can shelves, freezers and jars of dried herbs. We’ve sown and now we’re reaping.

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So now that Septembers arrived, lets talk about preparing for next years gardens. First off, I always draw my plans for both my vegetable gardens garden’s as well as my flower beds. I like to keep reminders of what I need to plant where and when along with other pertinent info that I would otherwise forget.

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There are several things to consider when winterizing, dividing and mulching your gardens.

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Now’s the time to start to plant fall bulbs and garlic.. You have until mid October but the temps are getting colder. Keep posted on a how and when to plant garlic!

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The other thing August reveals to me is I don’t have enough things blooming compared to the other months. August has always been a hard time for me to pay attention… but not this year. I’ve got my list of what I need to transplant and where for next year in my garden journal.

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Most perennials are cut back after we have had a killing frost in the fall. This usually occurs in late September or early October for us living in the Midwest, zone 4-5. Due to my location, I don’t ‘clean-up’ my beds. I leave the debris and the leaves because they act as natural mulches and help insulate my less hardy perennials, like lavender.

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I clean my beds and remove the debris and leaves and do the necessary divisions/ splitting in the spring once there’s at least two to three inches of new growth.

If you have vegetable gardens, I recommend applying a layer of manure this fall so it will compost through the winter and be ready to till in the spring. I do this in my raised beds as well. In the spring we simply scratch it all in and put a six inch layer of fresh composted soil on top, and then we’re ready to plant.

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A general rule of thumb when trying to decide when the best time to transplant and divide your perennials is if they bloomed in spring or early summer, divide or move in fall. If it bloomed in late summer or fall, it’s recommended to split in the spring. With the exception of daylilies and irises, which prefer an August move. One other factor is plants with taproots, like comfry prefer not to be moved at all, rather take an offshoot following the rule of bloom time.

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Plants with tender crowns like Delphinium can be protected by filling an empty nursery pot with leaves and setting the pot over the crown of the plant. Place a rock or brick on the pot to keep it in place. The crown of the plant will stay dry and protected over the winter.

I often look for bargains at the big box stores like Home Depot and Lowes for typically expensive shrubs or other larger plants that they’re hurriedly trying to clearance out…’something’s better than nothing’ mentality for them. Well, I’m happy to oblige and I can honestly say I can count on one hand how many plants I’ve lost due to late fall planting. There’s a few tricks to having a successful fall planting.
*Place a deep mulch, at least a foot around the base of the plant.
*Water regularly until the first light frost.
*If it is a tender perennial, follow the step listed above for Delphiniums.
*Some shrubs might do better if wrapped for the winter as well.
By following these few simple tricks, I’ve had wonderful success with late fall plantings.

Get more great info at http://www.bachmans.com/divHomePage.ep?currentNodeBean=GardenCare&categoryCode=02&pageIndex=_pageIndexToken_winterizingYourPerennials

Winterizing your gardens will give you peace of mind, knowing that your much cherished plants will have a better chance of survival. Be sure to follow the rules of proper plant division and the few tips on mulching and again, you’re sure to rest easy this winter knowing that you’ll enjoy those beautiful plants next spring!

Happy day,
Jean

Freezing Vegetables: A simple guide to freezing your gardens bounty

It’s August and the garden is overflowing with her beautiful gifts of that earthy goodness… fruits and veggies are abounding into our outstretched hands as if to say, “Thank-you!” for the tender care we provided from seedtime through the harvest.

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The watering and weeding… mulching and now tenderly picking it’s gift telling them in their plant language to keep on going, just a little bit longer. Until we finally say, “All done!” and with broken heart of yet another completed life cycle we pull out that tired and faithful friend. But it’s not done there… now it’ll be composted and then in newness of life return into the soil into which it came next spring… once again aiding us into the new birth of yet another gardening season.

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I love to write about gardening… it’s a passion that my soul hungers and thirsts after.  But more importantly, I love to teach you, my reader friends about this passion. I long to stir up a desire in you. To create that longing. A burning desire to touch the soil. To dig. To toil. To reap.

What we sow we will reap… if, if, and only if we toiled for it. The reaping is at hand and the bounty is in. My can shelves and freezers are filling up and time is ticking. They’re lives are coming to the end…. and my dear little plants know it.

The nights have been strangely cold for what we would expect from our Michigan August. Sunday morning at 6:30am it was 49 degrees… that’s cold… too cold for tomatoes to ripen, even in the hoop house.

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But onward we go with what we have and so we must put-up all that garden goodness.  With it we can continue to linger in the garden through winters dead days, if only in a faded memory, as we prepare our meals and relish in that victory of self-sufficiency.

Canning, freezing, dehydrating, dry-curing and fermentation are a few of the methods to store the food that we have grown and raised.  I thought I’d touch base on the two that I have the most experience with, freezing and canning.

Today lets look at freezing fruits and veggies. Learning to put-up the produce that you have grown or have purchased is a key ingredient into self sufficiency and food freedom.  You know what you’re putting into that jar or baggie… you are in control, especially if you grew it. But even if you didn’t, get to know a farmer that you can trust and get organic produce that you can feel safe and good about feeding your family.

Here’s a Guide to Freezing Fruit.
I found this guide at Mother Earth News… and thought, “Why try to re-invent the wheel?” So here is their info with a link to more below.

“Depending on how you intend to use it, there are three ways to freeze fruit.”

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Dry Pack: A dry pack is good for small whole fruits such as berries. Simply pack clean, dried fruit into a container, seal, label and freeze. A tray pack is an alternative that can make fruit easier to remove from the container. Spread a single layer of fruit on shallow trays without letting pieces touch, and freeze. When frozen, package and return to the freezer—fruit pieces remain loose and can be poured from the container easily.

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Sugar Pack: Many fruits freeze well packed with sugar. To prevent darkening, first combine lemon juice or ascorbic acid in water (about 1/2 teaspoon per 3 tablespoons) and sprinkle over fruit. Pour sugar over fruit and mix gently. Let stand until juice is drawn out and sugar dissolved, about 15 minutes. Package, label, seal and freeze. Sugar packs are effective for sliced apples, apricots, cherries, peaches, nectarines, raspberries and strawberries.

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Syrup Pack: Nearly all fruits can be preserved in syrup. To make syrup, dissolve sugar in lukewarm water (a medium-heavy syrup is 1-3⁄4 cups sugar to 4 cups water), mixing until solution is clear. Chill syrup before using. Use just enough cold syrup to cover fruit in the container (about 1⁄2 to 2⁄3 cup syrup per pint). To keep fruit under syrup, place crumpled parchment paper or other water-resistant wrapping material on top, and press fruit down into syrup before sealing the container

Read more: http://www.motherearthliving.com/food-and-recipes/food-preservation/guide-to-freezing-food-zmoz13jazmel.aspx#ixzz2buFiyDsI

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Here’s a simple guide to freezing vegetables.
Vegetables are a little different because they typically need to be blanched or steamed, with a few exceptions. I only steam my veggies because as soon as the produce is submerged into the water (blanching), the nutritional benefits decrease significantly. Steaming doesn’t take as long either because you’re not dumping your water every time with the vegetable.

You’ll need to decide how large you want the packages. I do most everything in 1 quart (4 cups). This allows each of my family members to half a 1/2 cup serving.

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Each vegetable has a different steaming time due to it’s size, density and thickness. Here’s a guide that I found that will give you almost every ‘common’ and a few not so common steaming times for over 40 vegetables. This was a keeper for me.
http://www.healwithfood.org/chart/vegetable-steaming-times.php

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Here’s what I do with the veggies that don’t need any processing.:

*Zucchini and yellow summer squash- I freeze 2 cups of shredded summer squash in freezer bags because most recipes call for that amount.

*Onions are easy to freeze and are so handy to have already chopped, diced or sliced.  I typically use ‘snack’ sized baggies and place 1cup of onion into it. Then I place as many of the baggies as will fit into a gallon size freezer storage bag. Every time I need chopped onion for a recipe all I need to do is grab a baggie and toss the onion in. Great for soups, chilies and anything that calls for sauted onions.

*Peppers- hot or sweet again are great to have in the freezer. I chop and slice these- I like the chopped ones for chilies, omelettes and homemade pizza, while I prefer the slices for fajita’s and stir fries.  I typically lay the slices onto cookie sheets and place in the freezer. Once nearly frozen I use a turner to pop them up and then keep them in one gallon ice cream buckets. I like to put the chopped pepper into snack size baggies like the onions and store them the same way.

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Here is my Pesto recipe that I freeze! Enjoy friends.

Pesto

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2 cups Olive Oil
1 Tbsp. sea salt
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
2-4 whole, de-skinned garlic cloves- end trimmed
Put all these ingredients into a blender and blend until completely mixed.

Add 1/2 cup, packed tightly fresh parsley leaves; blend until thoroughly  blended.

Add 1 cup, packed tightly fresh basil leaves; blend until thoroughly blended.

Put into 1/2 cup pint jelly jars or plastic containers. Freeze for up to 1 year.

Enjoy over pasta with some yummy homemade dinner buns!

I hope this not only taught you some useful, but also got you excited about getting your hands and kitchen dirty. I always say, “I’d rather spend a day or two of hard work putting up food so my family can eat good for the whole year!”

Happy Day,
Jean